Aloha, āhole: Dennis Eichhorn in Hawaii

« In Hawaii they say, “aloha.” That’s a nice one, It means both “hello” and “good-bye”, which just goes to show, if you spend enough time in the sun you don’t know whether you’re coming or going. » — George Carlin

By and large, the notorious 1990s trend of autobiographical (at times navel-gazing) comics was undermined by its practitioners’ dearth of meaningful life experience and insight. Obviously, there’s been plenty of notable exceptions, before and since: on the insight front, for one, Canadian David Collier is an undervalued master of the documentary form.

As for life experience, puissant Dennis P. Eichhorn (1945-2015) put all the pasty, effete cartoonists to shame with his spectacularly turbulent, bold-type life. A gifted writer and storyteller, well-versed in the comics medium, he galvanised the creativity of his many collaborators, a broad yet aptly-selected crew of graphic practitioners, many of whom he’d met in the course of his lengthy writing and editorial stint with Seattle’s fabled The Rocket weekly.

I initially assumed I’d run into trouble in settling on the one story to showcase, but nope… right away, I knew just the ticket… a ticket to the Big Island.

Monkey See, Monkey Do, written by Eichhorn and illustrated by Gene Fama, first saw print in Real Stuff no. 11 (Jan. 1993, Fantagraphics); there, it appeared in black and white, but was coloured, presumably by Fama himself, for Swifty Morales Press’ lovingly-done 2004 Real Stuff anthology.
The issue originally featured a Charles Burns cover coloured by Jim Woodring (another master of autobiography, en passant). Burns presumably wasn’t too keen on the original palette (whose murkiness, to be fair, rather overwhelmed his drawing), so he recoloured it himself for the anthology. This is the all-Burns version. Compare, if you will, to the Woodring rendition.
A candid shot of our fair young author on a visit to Seattle, circa 1992, with Mr. Eichhorn, along with a friendly member of the local ethylic intelligentsia, who successfully lobbied for inclusion in the shot. You decide who’s who.

-RG

p.s. It would be easy to assume that āhole is just a fancy way of saying ‘asshole’, but it isn’t *necessarily* so; to wit:

āholen. An endemic fish (Kuhlia sandvicensis) found in both fresh and salt water. The mature stage is āhole, the young stage āholehole. Because of the meaning of hole, to strip away, this fish was used for magic, as to chase away evil spirits and for love magic. It was also called a “sea pig” (puaʻa kai) and used ceremonially as a substitute for pig. Foreigners were sometimes called āhole because of the light skin of the fish. He āhole ka iʻa, hole ke aloha, āhole is the fish, love is restless [of āhole fish used in love magic]. [ source ]

2 thoughts on “Aloha, āhole: Dennis Eichhorn in Hawaii

  1. sbmumford April 2, 2022 / 10:25

    Great post, great story, writer and artist unknown to me. Some echoes of Eisner in Fama’s confident line work. An interesting mix of innocence and grit, naïveté and knowing cynicism in both story and art. Very clever.
    This mix also typifies Burns’ wonderful artwork.

    And great comparison of the coloring on his cover. Not sure which I like better!

    This blog continues to kill it!

    Like

    • gasp65 April 2, 2022 / 15:36

      Thank you so much for the kind words, SB! You’re unerringly correct as to the Eisner influence on Fama. To wit, Gene was even tapped by Denis Kitchen to try his hand at a Spirit story a few years later: https://readcomiconline.li/Comic/The-Spirit-The-New-Adventures/Issue-7?id=18907#1
      As for the cover colours, I suspect that Woodring’s version was printed darker than intended, upsetting what may have been a delicate tonal balance. The comparison also serves well, I think, as a reminder of the importance of the colourist, whose work most take for granted unless he or she royally screws up, of course. 😉

      Like

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